The Brown Paper Bag Test. Are you familiar with it? It is a discriminatory method that was designed with the mere purpose of segregating African American individuals based solely on their skin complexion.
If your skin tone was lighter than the paper bag, it was presumed you were more attractive. If you were darker than the paper bag, you were deemed unattractive. Although the idea of a bag determining what persons are appealing and good-looking is completely absurd, the notion is still present in today’s society. For instance, look at the media’s portrayal of women, specifically models in music videos who are considered desirable and socially acceptable based on their light skinned tone and perceived ‘pretty hair’ and European features. One should inquire why brown and dark-skinned women are not featured in these videos also. In addition, hip-hop artists’ attitudes and lyrics further the impression that one complexion is superior to the others. For example, while being interviewed for Lip Service, a satellite radio show in 2008, Rapper Yung Berg unapologetically proclaimed that he only will date lighter skinned women.
He indicated that:
“I’m kinda racist…I don’t really like dark butts too much…It’s rare I do dark butts. Like really rare. It’s like, no darker than me. No darker than me. I love the pool test…If you can be like, ‘Yo, baby. I met you in the club. Let’s go back to my house. Jump in the pool exactly like you are.’—And you don’t come looking better wet than you were before you got in the pool then that’s not a good look.” Any woman that use brown gel to set down her baby hair is not poppin”
Another lyricist, A$AP Rocky was interviewed in The Coveteur magazine and stated:
“But for real, for me, I feel like with the red lipstick thing it all depends on the pair of complexion, I’m just being for real. You have to be fair skinned to get away with that. Just like if you were to wear like— (expletive) for instance, what do dark skin girls have that you know fair skinned girls can’t do…Purple lipstick? Naw, that looks stupid on all girls! Purple lipstick, guys! Like, what the (expletive)…”
Rapper J. Cole admitted in an interview to BET.com that he was not sure that he would be as successful as he presently is had it not been for his skin complexion.
“I might not be as successful as I am now if I was dark skin. I’m not saying that for sure. I’m still talented as I am…but it’s just a sad truth. I don’t even know if this is going to translate well into text and people not hearing what I’m saying, but it’s a sad reality. So I can only naturally assume it’s probably easier for a light skin male rapper than it might be for a dark skin male rapper. It’s all subconscious (expletive), nobody’s aware — I think that (expletive) still subconsciously affects us.”
Lil Wayne raps that “beautiful black women, I bet that (expletive) looks better red” while another set of his lyrics state that “I like a long haired thick red bone.”
Celebrities are not the only ones impacted by this stigmatized and stereotypical mindset. Regular folks including African American women also share in the notion. Responses heard related to this issue span from ‘black men settle for darker toned women because they really want a light skinned one’ to ‘no one wants to date and marry a dark skinned man because they want their children to look mixed and have good hair.’
Though one’s preferences on who they consider to be attractive are not necessarily linked to prejudicial attitudes, the belief is that in order to resolve this problem, African Americans as a whole have to recognize it is an issue in the first place. Also, instead of tearing one another down, it is essential that we recognize that our black is beautiful and that no skin tone is better than another.
Cane, C. (2013). J. Cole: I Might Not Be as Successful If I Had Dark Skin. BET. Retrieved from: http://www.bet.com/news/music/2013/08/22/j-cole-i-might-not-be-as-successful-if-i-was-dark-skin.html.
Carter, D., Graham, A., Johnson, D. & Canton, A. (2010). Right Above It. [Recorded by Lil Wayne]. I Am Not A Human Being. Miami, Florida: Young Money, Cash Money, Universal Motown.
Carter, D., Graham, A., Mills, J., Preyan, J. & Lilly, C. (2009). Every Girl. [Recorded by Young Money]. We Are Young Money. Miami, Florida: Young Money, Cash Money, Universal Motown.
The Coveteur. (2014). A$AP Rocky’s Take on Beauty. The Coveteur. Retrieved from: http://www.thecoveteur.com/asap-rockys-take-on-beauty/.
Yee, A. (2008, June 30). Yung Berg Interview. [Satellite Radio broadcast episode], Lip Service, Sirius Satellite Radio: New York City, NY.